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Tirumala hills excluded from panchayat polls

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M. Malleswara Rao

State Government reissues order to preserve their sanctity

Voters can exercise their franchise in TirupatiLast year and area of 27.5 km was declared a township of religious significanceOrder covers all seven pathways and roads leading to temple town

HYDERABAD: One place in Andhra Pradesh has been exempted from the gram panchayat elections, now round the corner. It is Tirumala, the abode of Lord Venkateswara.

The election exercise will not take place on Tirumala hills although it figures in all official records as a village. The Government has issued an order reiterating its stand, excluding the holy place from any kind of elections -- be it Parliament, Assembly or gram panchayat.

Citizens of the hills whose names figure in the electoral rolls may, however, exercise their franchise in Tirupati town downhill. Already, canvassing in the elections is banned in Tirumala.

Vatican-type status

The Government had long planned to give Vatican City-type status to the sacred Hills of Tirumala, freeing them from all sorts of external controls and interferences. The proposal, fell through as it required amendments to several laws and presidential assent.

While the administrative autonomy contemplated for the place still remains a pipedream, the Government issued an order last year, declaring Tirumala village, spread over 27.5 square km, as a "township of religious importance" and banning all forms of elections there. Thus, the danger of the elections coming to the holy city with all its attendant problems, was avoided.

"The privilege continues now too. The sanctity of the hills has to be protected by all means," says M. Samuel, Panchayat Raj Principal Secretary, who re-issued the order under the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act 1994. The order covers all seven pathways and roads from Tirupati, Chandragiri, Balapalli and other places leading to the Hills and to ten teerthams atop.

A plan for according similar exclusion to Bhadrachalam has been put in cold storage as it comes under the purview of Regulation 1 of 1970, a law to protest the interests of tribals.

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